While you should definitely let your partner know as soon as possible that you have children, an in-person meeting should only occur if and when the relationship becomes serious enough for long-term potential. Make sure your significant other is completely committed to you before introducing them to your children. Children form bonds quickly, making them very vulnerable to potential disappointment. A man or woman who comes in and then out, can cause as much stress on a kid as your initial separation or divorce from their other parent.
If you have firmly established that your relationship is one focused on lasting commitment, it may be time to bring the kids into the relationship with you. But before you do so, read our tips below to make the process as smooth as possible.
Reassure you kids—Before mentioning your guy or gal, you should hold a conversation alone with your children. Since children fear abandonment, assert that you are 100% committed to them above all else.
Allow them to ask questions—Your conversation should not be a lecture; you need to pay attention to how your children are reacting and allow them to assess and respond. Be sure to answer everything they ask honestly so that they are completely prepared and feel they can trust you.
Share your enthusiasm—Prior to spilling the beans, ask your children what they see happening for the family in the future and if they picture someone else joining it. Tell them how important this person has become to you and how much you think they would add to you and your children’s life.
No ultimatums—Do not make it seem like you’re asking your children to approve of your partner or jump head first into loving them. Simply say you love the person and think that they will grow to as well. Explain that this will be a learning process for all of you and will ultimately be something that will make your bond with them stronger.
Don’t rush—After speaking with your kids, give them some time to digest and really understand the situation before the actual introduction. Allow them to notice if and how you are different now that you’ve found someone great. If they see how wonderful the person makes you feel, they’ll be more likely to keep an open mind come meeting time.
Do something informal—You want everyone to feel comfortable, so pick an activity that will put your family at ease. A formal dinner at your home may make both your kids and your partner feel like they have to have deep, meaningful conversation. The goal should be to let the relationship progress slowly and organically. You can even let your kids choose the location.
Brief your partner—Tell your significant other to curb their enthusiasm—extreme zeal may cause your children to distrust your partner and potentially think that he/she is trying to take over the family. Also advise them against displays of affection toward you or discipline toward your children. Even years after a separation or divorce, most children harbor the hope that you’ll get back with their parent. Seeing someone playing that role can be very damaging if not introduced gradually.
Don’t force an after-the-meeting conversation—When your children want to tell you how they feel about your partner they will. Pushing them to do so too soon, will only cause them to form a snap judgment that will inform their take on the person thereafter. It may also cause them to resent you for putting so much pressure on them.
The bottom line: don’t rush; constantly reassure; and avoid pressuring your child in any way. Storybook endings usually don’t happen over night—like all meaningful things in life, it takes time, patience and work.
Photo via Orin Zebest